Advocacy update – 13 March 2024

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Our fortnightly summary of advocacy and campaigning initiatives, new research, government developments and useful resources from across the asylum, refugee and migration sector. Contact us if you’d like to get this update directly into your inbox.

We said a fond farewell to our Director Paul Hook last week, Paul led the work of Asylum Matters through a time of significant challenges to the fundamental right to seek Asylum, mobilising the Lift the Ban Campaign, Communities Not Camps and continuing to campaign against Asylum Poverty. We’ll miss him very much but we’re  enormously pleased that another charity will get the benefit and joy of being able to work with Paul. Following a recruitment process Louise Calvey will take over as Director on 1st April. Lou’s worked in the Refugee & Asylum sector for the last 15 years and joins us ready to continue our work to campaign for the rights of People seeking asylum.

 1. Advocacy and campaigning initiatives


The ‘Safety of Rwanda’ Bill reached report stage in the House of Lords, where a number of defeats were once again inflicted on the Government. Lords from across the House voted through five amendments to change parts of the Bill on the first day of debate, and ten on the second. The Bill then passed its third reading in the House of Lords, and will now go back to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments, and a period of Parliamentary ‘ping pong’.

As debates commenced, the Law Society warned that no evidence had yet been provided to prove that Rwanda was a safe country for those seeking safety, and medical and humanitarian organisations wrote to Parliament to oppose the Bill. Meanwhile, the National Audit Office published a report on its investigation into the costs of the Rwanda scheme, with resulting reports that the overall costs of the scheme could balloon to half a billion pounds, and cost £1.8 million for each of the first 300 people to be removed.

Communities Not Camps

Care 4 Calais have published a letter to the Home Secretary from the  since-sacked Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration stating that ‘hopelessness caused by boredom’ amongst residents at the camp at ex RAF Wethersfield will ‘inevitably’ lead to harm.  The letter revealed a planned visit in February was postponed for two weeks after a suicide attempt at the camp. Proceedings have meanwhile begun in a legal challenge brought by nine asylum seekers alleging they were unlawfully placed at the camp – with levels of despair at the site being described as ‘horrific’ by campaigners.

It has been revealed that the Home Office has not routinely been informing family members after incidents of deaths in asylum accommodation. The revelation came after a Freedom of Information request seeking to ascertain details of such incidents.

As legal proceedings continue in relation to Dorset Council’s actions over the Bibby Stockholm, a former resident has told of what he experienced on the barge, including problems with medical appointments, internet connectivity and the effects of crowded conditions.

The BBC and Guardian report that Government is set to drop opposition to a statutory inquiry into the mistreatment of people seeking asylum at Manston processing centre in late 2022. This comes after legal proceedings brought by detainees at the camp.

Take action with our #CommunitiesNotCamps resources:

2.                Government and parliamentary updates

Inquiry into channel deaths

An inquiry has begun, chaired by former judge Sir Ross Cranston, into the events of 24 November 2021 when at least 27 people lost their lives crossing the channel.  This comes amid recent news of further Channel crossing tragedies, with three believed dead in one incident and a seven year old girl losing her life in another. IMIX have published a helpful messaging guide around the pressing need for safe routes here.

Sacking of Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI)

The sacking of David Neal, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, has continued to make headlines. Following an evidence session with the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Committee has written to the Government, including about conditions at the camp at Wethersfield, and the former Inspector has set out ten changes to make the ICIBI more effective. Mr Neal has since appeared on the BBC, calling the Home Office ‘dysfunctional’. Meanwhile, following the findings in one of his since published reports that some children were asked to play a game to guess who would be in foster care next at a hotel in Kent, charities and campaigners are urging ministers to set up an inquiry into the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK.

Public Accounts Committee inquiry into asylum accommodation and UK-Rwanda

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has announced that it will take evidence from senior Home Office officials on subjects including the costs incurred from the ‘Migration and Economic Development Partnership’ with Rwanda, and the Home Office’s current and future plans for accommodating and detaining those seeking asylum. A call for evidence has been launched for evidence not previously published related to these themes, deadline 2 April.

Immigration statistics released

The Government’s latest immigration statistics have been released, showing a substantial drop in the asylum grant rate. Concerns have been expressed about what has happened to people who have had their asylum claims withdrawn and those in limbo because they have been deemed inadmissible to the system. British Red Cross analysis here, Free Movement analysis here.

Asylum appeal backlog

Although the number of appeals in the backlog of Asylum and Immigration Tribunal cases has increased significantly – from 4,500 in October 2023 to more than 6,000 in November 2023 – the number of appeals being heard in the courts has stayed the same (around 3,000 per month). This means that the tribunal system does not have the capacity to hear the number of appeals, and this will only increase the number of people waiting to have their appeals heard. Right to Remain have published a helpful explainer.

Information Commissioner finds GPS tagging unlawful

The Information Commissioner’s Office, the data protection authority in the UK, has found the Home Office’s pilot scheme for the tagging of people seeking asylum in the UK to be unlawful, following a complaint made by Privacy International. Coverage here.

3.                Reports and research

ICIBI reports published

The Home Office has published 12 reports which had previously been submitted by the Inspector but not published.  They include reports on the Afghan resettlement schemescountry information on statelessnessAlbania and Pakistan country of origin information, contingency asylum accommodation for families in Northern Ireland and an inspection of asylum casework (analysis of this report here).

Bevan Foundation – Living with NRPF in the Nation of Sanctuary

This research report finds that more needs to be done in Wales to support people with no recourse to public funds and to prevent destitution, with local authority planning, policies and training inadequate and more partnership working between charities and local authorities needed.

4.                Resources, events, jobs and training

Stand Up! Speak Out! Seminar Series 2024

Stand Up! Speak Out! is a training series by members of Solidarity Knows No Borders. Between March and June this year, there will be over 20 free online seminars on various topics including: asylum system 101; everyday borders; rights information to access healthcare; skills to fight for housing justice; ideas for collective care; climate justice and migrant justice. See the full comprehensive programme and book your place here.

Refugee Journalism Project Bursaries

The Refugee Journalism Project in partnership with BAFTA has launched a bursary for practitioners with a refugee background who have a qualification in a media related field or at least 2 years experience in films, games or television. Deadline to apply is 15 March and details are here.

Right to Remain volunteer public Legal Education Project

Right to Remain are inviting 5-6 legal practitioners (including barristers, solicitors and immigration caseworkers) to co-deliver 3 public legal education sessions each from May 2024 – October 2024. They ask interested legal practitioners to submit their registration of interest by 5pm on Wednesday 10 April 2024. More details here, apply by 10 April.


5. What we’re reading, watching and listening to

  • This blog on the different costs of control at the border.

  • David Neal’s exit interview with the Today programme podcast

  • Diana Taylor’s profile of Ibrahima Bah and his experiences, including of forced child labour, coercion, assault, and of losing his best friend during their Channel crossing.

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